Discussing the script of "Magic Mike" is a little like asking a stripper what score they got on their college SATs before you jam a dollar bill into their thong. Once you get past all the hot hunks and strip this movie down to the bare bones, it could just as easily been called "Showguys."
First-time screenwriter Reid Carolin loads "Magic Mike" with cliches including a conniving dance club boss -- played with weird vigor by Matthew McConaughey -- to the down-and-out stripping virgin (Alex Pettyfer) who goes from innocent to sinner in less time than it takes to pull off a pair of breakaway pants. Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) is only stripping to get enough money to start his dream business of making furniture out of beach scraps.
Toss in a milk toast love interest (Cody Horn), a sinister drug dealer and the overworked anthem of male strip club reviews -- The Weather Girls 1982 tune "It's Raining Men" -- and there's not enough original ideas to fill a G-string.
Tatum, whose real-life past life as a stripper makes him look very comfortable in this role, plays Magic Mike, a smooth talker who fronts a male dance troupe known as the Kings of Tampa. Mike befriends the troubled Adam and before you can say "take it off," Adam has joined the male strip show. This doesn't sit well with Adam's sister, Brooke (Horn), but she trusts Mike will keep her brother safe. Mike has an incentive to be a good protector; he likes Brooke.
Director Steven Soderbergh dances right up to the edge of campy with overly produced dance numbers, sex-crazed female patrons and male bonding. And it works. There's a real energy, and it's great fun watching the male dancers train and work together.
Even McConaughey's philosophical rants -- either well acted or just McConaughey being McConaughey -- give the movie a fun quality.
It's the moment when "Magic Mike" leaves the stage and wades into the trite emotional story lines that the film falls apart. Midway through the film, the group travels to a sandbar for a party. Through a fuzzy, often stagnant shooting style, Soderbergh tries to give the movie some gravitas through deep revelations by anyone who wanders in front of the camera. This is as out of place as a stripper stopping in the middle of his/her show to discuss the impact of troubles in the Middle East on corn prices. Just shut up and get back to the dance club.
"Magic Mike" needs help in the second half when the writing becomes so inane that thugs looking for Adam ransack Mike's apartment. Were they expecting him to hide behind a painting?
All this talk about sloppy writing and stilted filming is really a moot point, though. "Magic Mike" is to filmmaking what stripping is to the dance world -- a guilty pleasure that shouldn't be taken too seriously.
"Magic Mike," rated R for language, graphic nudity, drug use, sexual content. Stars Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer, Olivia Munn. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Running time: 110 minutes. Grade: C Theaters and times for this movie | Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.